Book Review: The Jewel of St. Petersburg – Kate Furnivall

Title: The Jewel of St. Petersburg
Author: Kate Furnivall
ISBN: 9780425234235
Pages: 432
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary:

The year is 1910 and Valentina Ivanova is the daughter of a wealthy Russian noble close to the czar.  She is a gifted piano player and attracts the attention of many, which delights her parents as they try to arrange her marriage.  Valentina, though, has a mind of her own and is determined to find love and contribute to society.  Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks are slowly growing stronger and pose a threat to everything Valentina’s family holds dear.

Review:

I’d heard good things about The Jewel of St. Petersburg, so I was excited to pick it up and read it.  The time period, just a few years before the Russian Revolution, is a fascinating one, and I’ve always been interested in Russian history.  Therefore, I was disappointed to find that this book didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped. 

The Jewel of St. Petersburg is a solidly written and researched book.  I was right in my initial hopes about the setting – the time period was wonderful.  Furnivall did an amazing job capturing the tension of the time.  There is a sense of foreboding through the entire novel, as the reader knows what will eventually happen.  It’s clear why there is such unrest – the reader can see the opulence and luxury of Valentina’s lifestyle, versus the poverty and despair of the Russian peasants’.  Furnivall also wonderfully evokes a feeling of suspicion.  It’s hard to know who you can trust at such difficult times.  It was an amazing setting for a novel, and Furnivall really took advantage of it.

The problem I had with The Jewel of St. Petersburg was with Valentina.  For some reason, I wasn’t really invested in her story.  I felt like she yo-yo’d back and forth between the life she had and the one she wanted and couldn’t decide which meant more – her family or the man she loved.  I just wanted her to make a decision and go with it, rather than leading both sides on!  Additionally, I just couldn’t sympathize with her for some reason.  Part of this might be because this book is apparently part of a series.  It’s a prequel to Furnivall’s The Russian Concubine, which I didn’t know before picking it up.  Perhaps I missed something with regards to Valentina, which could be why she didn’t appeal to me.

While The Jewel of St. Petersburg was a solid read, it wasn’t one I was clamoring to get back to after I put it down.  Because I didn’t really sympathize with the main character, I didn’t really feel a need to push ahead with it.  It’s a shame because the time period is so fascinating.  I should also add that every single other review I’ve read of this book has been positive, so it might just be that I wasn’t in the mood for the book when I was reading it.  Whether it’s because of that or the fact that it’s part of a series, while I appreciated the setting and time period of The Jewel of St. Petersburg, it wasn’t a perfect fit for me.

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Comments

  1. Regardless of how this didn’t work for you, I’d be inclined to give it a try just because of the time period and setting.

  2. Regardless of how this didn’t work for you, I’d be inclined to give it a try just because of the time period and setting.

  3. I was also drawn to this book mainly because of the setting but now that you are not so enamoured by this book I too am disappointed!

    The city itself is so fascinating I just presumed the book would be too…

  4. I was also drawn to this book mainly because of the setting but now that you are not so enamoured by this book I too am disappointed!

    The city itself is so fascinating I just presumed the book would be too…

  5. I’m sorry you didn’t like this one! When I read it a few moths ago I actually really loved it and found Valentina’s story to be interesting but you know, not every book works for every person!

  6. I’m sorry you didn’t like this one! When I read it a few moths ago I actually really loved it and found Valentina’s story to be interesting but you know, not every book works for every person!

  7. You are spot on when you say that most reviewers really loved this book, but I really appreciated your honest take on it. It sounds like you might have liked it a bit better if you had read the books in order, which is something to consider if I decide to pick this one up. Although I don’t know if I will because your description of the protagonist’s unending vacillating kind of turns me off.

  8. You are spot on when you say that most reviewers really loved this book, but I really appreciated your honest take on it. It sounds like you might have liked it a bit better if you had read the books in order, which is something to consider if I decide to pick this one up. Although I don’t know if I will because your description of the protagonist’s unending vacillating kind of turns me off.

  9. Interesting that you were disappointed, I really loved this one. Normally when this happens to me I wonder…”Did I miss something?” It happens…

  10. Interesting that you were disappointed, I really loved this one. Normally when this happens to me I wonder…”Did I miss something?” It happens…

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